Sunday, November 29, 2009

An authentic rant from a Chicago Fire fan

One of my favorite lines from a movie is this:

"It's not Show Friends, it's Show Business" - Bob Sugar, Jerry Maguire

I've even caught myself uttering it occasionally over the years.

This past week, I finally understood why it's such a cold statement.

Next year, a great friend of mine will not be on the sidelines of my favorite MLS team, The Chicago Fire, because the "team decided to go in a different direction."

I sure hope that "different direction" is a clear upgrade. Meaning, they must be looking outside the league for a replacement.

Here is a man who has motivated a team to play beyond themselves for two straight years and get to the conference final only to lose on penalties. For those of you not watching - basically, he had two "big name" stars both of whom were/are on the decent from their highest form. Two players that could not have been more opposite in nature and play. Apart from the superstars -he had a solid goalkeeper who more than earned his pay on many occasions plus a supporting cast, that was average at best with a few potential shining stars; it was a miracle that they got as far as they did these past two years.

I have hesitated all week to write because I am, admittedly, emotionally attached to the situation. After all, the man in question is my friend and we worked closely together the first three years of the Chicago Fire's existence. He was one of two partners who helped me launch the FireWorks for Kids Foundation in 1998 now known as the Chicago Fire Foundation.

But, now looking at it almost a week removed and having slept on many versions of this post the facts are clear.

He was a tenacious player when he played and opened the league as his team's best defender in it's inaugural year in 1996 (there are many who say he could have challenged the league's selection of John Doyle that year - I'm just sayin.) .

He played in a few leagues before MLS and knows the American soccer system as good as anyone.

He has tremendous experience as an assistant and rightfully earned a chance to head coach.

He has a winning record in each of his two seasons as a head coach with two trips to the conference finals.

I get it - no bling - no thing.

I just hope another MLS team scoops him up fast and can't wait for his return to Toyota Park.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Authentic Thankfulness

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

You see, I commandeered Thanksgiving from my family during my college years.

It was my holiday to do as I pleased - which may or may have included traditional holiday dinners with my family. My mom died in 1976 when I was almost 5 and until my dad remarried when I was close to 11 years old - holidays were kind of blah. Of course, we celebrated but they were really low key. (Hence my outrageous birthday celebrations - see post from November 17)

In college, my dad and step mom divorced so I decided that I was not obligated do Thanksgiving with anyone. Since this holiday is my favorite and fell in my favorite month of the year- it was game for the taking.

One year - I saw Michael Hutchence and INXS at the Aragon Ballroom. Michael sweat on me that night - quite possibly my best Thanksgiving ever.

Another year, I spent Thanksgiving in Marbella, Spain in a bar with a bunch of new friends from Holland, Spain and Portugal.

My first Thanksgiving with Isael was spent in Barcelona. We saw Fatboy Slim (a famous DJ that we had not idea who he was at the time) perform in a crowded theatre with our Norwegian roommate, Inca. Fun, fun.

There have been at least three Thanksgivings in Cuautla Mexico with my husband's family where we did a joint birthday celebration with his sister whose birthday is two days before mine.

And of course, there are the Thanksgivings where I cook my famous sweet potato pie and many sides to go with the Heavenly Ham I always purchase the day before.

Food, Friends, Family and of course FOOTBALL make this an amazing day.

As a mom, it has become my duty to keep my little ones from skipping Thanksgiving with all the Christmas hype that I did not have as a kid.

So this week, I have challenged my kids to be thankful and verbalize what they are thankful for in an effort to reinforce the importance of giving thanks, this week and always.

I must take my own advice... here goes....

I am thankful for my intimate relationship with my Maker that grows each day richer and deeper.

I am thankful for my marriage. What an amazing journey we've been on for the last 16 months and we are now hitting a new and better era of our lives together.

I am thankful for two healthy, bright and beautifully compassionate kids.

I am thankful for one living parent and many living relatives who care about us.

I am thankful for tremendous talents and gifts that I continue to hone for a greater purpose.

I am thankful for a fruitful career as a marketer and my current job.

I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my community as a elected official.

I am thankful for a vision that is coming together, each day, each moment.

If you haven't already - take a moment and physically record what you are thankful for... it does wonders for the soul.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Office Nails It

If you did not watch tonight's episode of The Office - don't read this. Wait until you watch it on DVR and then come back.

OK, now that you are back, tonight's episode nails it 100%. Tonight's episode nails the corporate experience as I have seen it in my 17 years of working. Whether or not you watch The Office regularly - this is an episode not to be missed.

I'll set it up for you and when the episode is posted on, I will surely post the link here.

Basically, Dunder Mifflin, the fictitious paper company on which the NBC hit series is based, is in trouble. There is shareholder meeting called and to distract the shareholders from the pending news of bankruptcy, the officers of the company invite Scranton branch manager Michael Scott to wave and represent the one good thing going on in the company on its way to certain doom. In classic Michael Scott-style, Michael does not quietly wave and "represent" the way the officers of the company would have him, instead he tries to motivate the dissidents with a rousing speech and makes a promise to "come back with a plan - a 45 day plan to turn the company around."

Upon returning to the staging room - the officers of the company, clearly shaken and freaking out about Michael's promise, began to badger him for his "plan." Without one at the top of his head, he calls in one of his employees, Oscar, who had been pontificating on the limo ride what he'd do if he were in charge. The defining scene that motivated me to blog comes next.

Given an opportunity to speak to the officers of Dunder Mifflin and genuinely contribute to the conversation on how to save the company, Oscar freezes, says nothing and slinks out.

Before the slinking, Michael- in all his inappropriate glory - prods Oscar with some of the tidbits that he'd been putting out over the last two days since the greater environment was alerted to the company trouble. "Tell 'em what you said about cash and property dumping," Michael said trying to pull Oscar into talking.


Not only nothing from Oscar but worse than that, none of leaders had the brains to ask him to talk or attempt to make him comfortable enough to tell the ideas that his desperate boss had called him in to share.

It was an all too common scene. Uncomfortable as it was in this fictitious world, I know this happens on a daily basis in real life and that is worse.

This episode highlights what I believe is the #1 problem in corporate America today.

The chasm between the people in charge and the people who may have solutions to contribute is often deep and wide.

It's two-fold and everyone plays a part.

Which one are you?

Are you the "Oscar" in your organization? The person with "all the answers" among your peers but silent in front of stakeholders who can make things happen. You chirp and chirp and, who knows - some of what you say may be legit but you'd never have the huevos to express it in the appropriate forum. Or...

Are you the Dunder Mifflin officer - too damn prideful to think that someone else (gasp) lower than you on the corporate ladder could actually have something to contribute? You know who you are; you make the worker bees feel stupid when they open their mouths with an original idea and then asks a few trusted folks near you why no one says anything in meetings.

I am happy to report that I am neither.

Although I have only been in three "corporate" (corporations not start-ups or non-profits) environments in my career, I am proud to say that I have consistently been a person who has both the skills and will to speak up and contribute.

Even when I speak alone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

38 and counting.....the blessings

There I said it.

I'd never been one to really care about my age and have kidded with never turning 30 by "anniversarying" my 29th birthday for the last 9 years.

Yesterday, on my 38th birthday, I realized that 38 years of existence comes with it's observations:

It's another year, another year without her.

Every year, I think about my mom Betty Jean (Jackson) Wilmer who left this earth 33 years ago this past August. Each year the impact seems greater, the desire to share my happenings with the woman in my mind who is forever 24 years old. Although she's been gone longer than she was here, her impact is still being felt through me. She herself would be 58 next month, were she here. In our Internet age, I think that maybe there are people who might be looking for her so I have made a commitment this next year to blog about her and post a few of the photos I have so that she, too can be captured immortally online and "found" by folks looking for her.

People actually listen when you announce your birthday for the weeks leading up to it.

Before this year - I'd announce that folks had 30 shopping days until my birthday in mid-October. I'd tease and prod and joke that MY BIRTHDAY was coming and you should all care. I'd be lucky to get a few wishes at work or a few calls from the network. This year - I'd swear everyone I know wished me a happy birthday. First thing in the morning, at Evan's school - the director wished me happy birthday and every person I came in contact with the rest of the day wished me a happy birthday as well.

You are truly touched by every wish granted.

This year - with the help of Facebook events - lots and lots of people wished me a happy birthday on my page yesterday and I thanked each and every one personally. No small feat for someone who boasts friends from high school, college, and every single job I've had - those who know my 1st decade out of college gypsy-like career moves knows that is no small number. Funny, because there were times yesterday when I was tempted to post a blanket thanks but then I thought about the time each person took to remember and stop by and I couldn't do it. I was compelled to answer every wish, individually.

On the rare but many calls received, you actually preview happenings as much as you reminisce

I think the more you approach the middle age time of your life - you are so much more reflective and projective all at the same time. Every conversation centered around what I expect to happen over the next year, God willing and past celebrations we may have had together. In the past - it was about the NOW. What are we doing? Where are we going? In a sense it is the same, but very different.

Our foursome is weaved tightly and demonstrates our love to one another best in celebration of birthdays

My husband, kids and I have patented "rock star" birthday celebrations. We love on one another, treat each other and just gush gush for the whole month of our birthdays. Even this morning, my son came in and said, "Mommy, we are still celebrating your birthday today, even though it was yesterday." You see he and my daughter have their birthdays celebrated the whole months of May and August and they have translated that selflessly into April for my husband and November for me. Yes - because I am a birthday freak (ask my dad, he started it years ago, perhaps to overcompensate the sadness of other holidays with the loss of my mom so early) and it rubbed off but this is genuinely a tradition that I am so glad we've built in our world. Sort of my dad's celebrations magnified by four!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Authentic Resilience

Tonight, as I searched for a visual representation of resilience - I came across this photo of the flower sprouting out in the midst of the asphalt. This is a great representation of what I consider authentic resilience.

You must imagine the roots of this flower pushing and twisting, contorting and stretching itself to reach its life sustaining soil. With each season, it has to work that much harder to keep itself alive. To add value to its tiny corner of the universe. To bring joy to the one looking for it in the simplest of places

I'd bet there are days when trying to find water, a very basic element that should be easily encountered in its environment, this flower's roots stretch to the point of breaking to get the drops of moisture that it senses in the dark below. It can't think - it operates all by instinct and that is what keeps this solo flower growing in the midst of asphalt

Some days I feel like that, too.

In all my efforts to not just survive but thrive in the spot I'm in, I twist and push, contort and stretch myself even beyond what I think are my limits of "enough is enough.

Yet I don't break.

I deliver. For my family, for my friends, for my employer and ...

Mainly for myself.

Dictionary defines resilience as the following:

1. The capability of a body to recover its size and shape after deformation cause especially by compressive stress
2. An ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.


I use resilience in my brand statement and never think of it as a result of something negative. On the contrary, I see it as an innate ability to form oneself for the task at hand.

Either you possess this character trait or you don't.  You can't teach this but it can be learned.

May you have or develop the resilience needed to face whatever is in front of you.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Summer November Weekend Wows This Scorpio

November is my favorite month and always has been.

With about 8 days until the 9th anniversary of my 29th birthday, I cannot remember a weekend in November this gorgeous. I usually love this month no matter the temperature but I have to say I am impressed with this weekend, in particular.

70 degrees and sunny  Saturday, 75 degrees and sunnier Sunday. The picture I found is similar to our weekend minus the mountain and with lots more leaves on the ground.

First, a visit to the park with the kids and then a jump or two on the trampoline.

An MLS playoff series win for the Chicago Fire with a celebration under the clear Chicago sky.

Then - a Sunday afternoon outside with my dad, my sister's brood and my own two kids. You can't beat this!

This post is dedicated to all those who complained all summer long (and part of the fall) about our weather - see, if you just keep living - the good days come. Sometimes two days in a row!

My only hope is that you Chicagoans (or anyone in the midwest for that matter)  got out to enjoy it.

I know I did.